CPEC — Corridor of Uncertainty
At the beginning of 2015, the focus of debate over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was whether it would go ahead at all. The history of economic relations between China and Pakistan had been routinely disappointing. Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, kept putting off his visit to Islamabad. The fantastical dollar figures being thrown around by the Pakistani government seemed to be plucked from thin air. Even after Xi finally showed up in April 2015, the global reaction to the announcements of 46 billion dollars worth of projects was one of pervasive scepticism. We had seen these large numbers being announced before, with very little of it translating into action on ground.
Yet, moving into 2016, while many questions and doubts remain, these are now more concerned with “how” rather than “if” the CPEC will happen. What are the debt implications for the Pakistani economy? Will Punjab be the disproportionate beneficiary? What will be the local impact of the projects? Which route will be completed first? Does the government have the capacity to build a set of projects on as grand a scale as the CPEC includes?